More From Alder's Ledge

June 22, 2013

Revising History

Revising History
Contributed by Heathergems 

"If we don't learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it."  But what if the lessons being taught do not reflect the whole story?  If history is only written by the victors- how do we know what is being shared is the full truth?

In some spheres of research and education- the quest for the whole picture is being pursued.  Looking at Columbus Day for example.  Less than 20 years ago the whole view of the Columbus Day landing was painted in only positive colors.  Christopher Columbus is a hero who discovers a new land, who brings Christianity to a savage world and opens up new trade.

While he may have been heralded as a hero in his homeland- the natives have a different view.  From recent studies and discoveries of contemporary excerpts- a fuller picture of the name and times is revealed. The land was not known to the European world- but was truly not newly discovered since it had inhabitants who had an established society- the Arawaks natives.  From different backgrounds and ideologies, it in turn today can be seen as a clash of cultures.  One of image of Columbus viewed as a heroic adventurer claiming the land in the name of God, King, and Country and opening up a new world, but this same name brought enslavement and genocide to a native people, ravaging an already living world.  One should not be presented as the full truth without the other.

This is just one example of revising history.  The term revisionism has different connotations.  It can be applied to those who wish to manipulate facts to fit an agenda.  Giving a "white-washed" and obscured view of the past in denying events.  Such as those who try to rewrite the Holocaust and it's atrocities.  Admittedly rewriting history has been going on since the ancient Egyptians writing over the hieroglyphics of their predecessors to accredit themselves with the deeds. The other side of the coin of revisionist history is the pursue for that entire truth.  To view the event from more than the victors lens, but the full impact of the incident seen from all sides.  

In teaching history to the next generation- the education field must embrace the full aspect of the events.   Educational curriculum should not be as biased as it has been, nor should it paint it in one shade.  Too many times, texts books try to emphasize patriotism and ethnocentrism while trying to give a veneer cover of it's own historical blemishes.  Instead there should be an honest attempt to capture the truth.  Some steps today are trying to incorporate a more intercultural  and diversity exposure to the educational field.  Studies show teachings reflecting these shortfalls have a wider impact. The views taught in school leave impressions in young minds that they then carry out into the much larger and complex world. Demonstrating how they were either educated or misinformed.

There is a short walk from ethnocentrism to prejudice and hate.  It robs these impressionable minds of the reality of diversity and the complexities of human relationships and consequences.  If the wounds of the past are never examined- there can be no healing.  By elevating one's perspective to diminish or conceal the honest truth, there is so much to lose and so little to gain.  

There is more than just the view of Columbus Day.  This happens today in other countries as it has happened in the past.  The Nazi's rewrote the education for their Hitler youth.  The cold war taught us to demonize the other side of the "iron curtain."  Myanmar is currently trying to remove ethnic minorities from recognition entirely.  An ugly trend, an erroneous doomed repetition.  Unless there are those who demand the "whole truth and nothing but the truth."

As parent's, one should examine what is being taught to our children.  Demand from the educational realm- the removal of political and ethnocentric agendas from tainting the lessons being presented.  Education should encourage questioning and exploration- not the memorization of rhetoric and hollow facts.  Critical thinking and conscientious questioning should be stimulated for when one is no longer under the supervisor of the academic realm- it is up to the individual.  One must take responsibility and ownership of the knowledge they possess or lack there of.  It is up to the individual to be either internalize the information presented as the entire truth or explore the curiosity, and delve into wholeheartedly to discover what the past is waiting to teach.  

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Source Documents
(note: not all sources listed)

Columbus's Genocide



Marmara University

Council of Europe- Human Rights educational Resources

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization

Thomas Teo -York University and Angela Febbraro- Defence R&D Canada- Toronto

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